A few weeks ago, I was visiting some college friends, and held A, their 3 month old, for five minutes. (It was kind of like holding a cat, except I got drooled on.) In those moments, I felt a combination of terror and confusion. I thought, what if holding her makes me want one? I don’t want a kid, not even theoretically, but what if it’s so contagious that just seeing her small baby ears makes my ovaries swell and I Suddenly Understand? (In the end, I returned A to her mother, and my ovaries seemed to have remained their normal size.)
I conceived of this blog, originally, as a place to write what I wanted to, instead of waiting for other people to allow me to do it. What I considered only marginally is what I would allow myself to say. There are things, though, that are at the front of my brain that I have been reticent to write about, mainly because I’m nervous about alienating my friends (total strangers, not so much). Just as the personal is political, the political, of course, is deeply personal. I wrote a piece last week for the Sisterhood in which I talk about the reclamation of feminism and the boundaries around it. Read the piece, of course, but basically, I assert that you cannot be a feminist if you are anti-choice and not at least an active ally to the queer community.
I’m wary (and somewhat nauseated by) the blanket statement that feminism is about choice, and therefore every decision that gets made by women is in the name of feminism. Socialization of gender is at work in everyone’s life, and no one can rightfully claim they’re exempt from it. It impacts all of our choices. The ones I’m most interested in, and the ones that get me in trouble in my non theoretical life, are those that concern marriage (of the heterosexual nature), the surname “challenge”, and childbearing (to do it or not). These choices are all rife with issues around race, class, sexuality, etc, and yet I can’t help but notice that all around me, (outside and in my Jewish/lefty worlds) women all seem to make the same choices.
I’m not insinuating that one should do or not things just to make a point, but at the same, at the heart of my desire for equality (another blanket word that makes me nauseous) is my belief that everyone should be able to access their full potential, and that means being able to see clearly, in spite of the obstacles of bullshit that are in the way. The way we’re programmed to see our gender is directly related to the way we see our choices in the world.
It’s very often difficult to understand where expectations and social morays end and our genuine desires begin and even more difficult to ask ourselves why we might want (and not want) certain things. J recently told me that a friend of hers revealed to her that she was the first person to ask her, “What if you didn’t get married?” This friend had literally never thought about a life without marriage, as I suspect many of us have not. Maybe she’ll get married, maybe she won’t, but what matters most to me is that we not treat such things as though they are an inevitability. For me, at least, it’s thrilling to imagine this young woman considering her life now, and all the possibilities, terrifying and beautiful, that have opened to her.